This year, while rising to the top of the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, and San Francisco 49ers not only dominated on the field, but also put up big numbers in social media. It started back during training camp. While coaches developed game plans and established depth charts, the digital teams for these three front-runners huddled to craft their strategy for an optimistic season.
Months later when the 2013 / 2014 regular season came to a close and the playoffs began, the pressure started to build, not just on the practice field, but in Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and Instagram photos. Hungry fans eagerly consume every image and word during the post-season, and team digital strategists and social media managers focus intensely on maximizing that content.
Looking back on an amazing ride, here are six playoff lessons learned on the road to #SB48:
Adversity Builds Character
"We may see them again in the Playoffs." We've all heard players and coaches say that after two playoff bound teams walk off the field following in an intense regular season game.
There were countless playoff rematch possibilities this season with division rivals and conference foes poised to make deep runs into the post season. Many teams played for second time, and the Broncos/Chargers and Seahawks/49ers took to the field for the third time in a matter of months.
One wise course of action in social media after battling an opponent you may see again is to focus on adversity. It's not about gloating when you win, or making excuses when you lose, but about showing the character and toughness that comes from intense match ups. The message that's sent to fans and followers is that these games put the team in a better position to deal with similar pressure and adversity down the road.
It's About the Emotion, not the Opponent
This season the 49ers and Seahawks were arguably the best rivalry in the NFL. These teams went to war twice during regular season, and met one final time in the NFC Championship game.
In preparation for their second regular season game vs. the Seahawks, Senior Digital and Social Media Manager of the 49ers Scott Kegley keyed in on something Coach Jim Harbaugh had said during a pre-game press conference, turning that quote into the team's mantra for the match-up in social media.
Strategically, this accomplishes two objectives. First, it takes the focus off any negativity towards the 49ers's biggest rival, shifting the emphasis on the emotion of the game. Second, it lets fans know they need to buckle up for an amazing ride every time these two teams square off.
Focus on Team, Not Individual Players
When the Broncos and Patriots were slotted to meet in the AFC Championship Game, the media was laser focused on one match up -- Manning vs. Brady.
To balance things out a bit the Broncos digital team developed a social media content plan for the week that focused on other members of the 53 man roster. This allowed official team channels to discuss a wider array of key match-ups that the team felt were important instead of laser focusing solely on the Quarterback battle being exhaustively analyzed by traditional sports media.
In some small way a strategy like this may help players and coaches by better educating fans on the importance of a complete team performance against a tough opponent instead of buying into the broader hype of two high profile players.
Show the Story, Don't Tell It
The emergence of visual storytelling in social media has been amazing for the world of sports, particularly with the rise of Instagram and the simple ability to create professional grade photos through its user friendly filters.
The images cast on teams social media channels are now worthy of picture frames, and in some instances could grace the cover of a magazine.
By showcasing these photos on social media channels and in website galleries teams can both glorify and archive amazing moments and accomplishments throughout the season. The end result is a digital storybook that fans are eager to devour.
Go Short on Social. Go Deep on Site
While social media content is shifting towards iconic imagery, team website experiences and capabilities are expanding.
One thing that's become readily apparent this season is the studio quality in-house production teams and talented writers the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers have on staff. These clubs have put themselves in great position to bridge the gap between fans and their favorite team, offering quality insights and access that simply cannot be obtained anywhere else.
With such dynamic site content created for fans to discover, social media channels become effective promotional tools, serving as stylized digital magazines or intriguing teaser copy that lures fans to a more robust website experience.
These eye-catching visuals and well crafted lead-ins are successfully converting fans from casual social feed browsers into rabid website consumers with meaningful percentages of 49ers, Broncos, and Seahawks readership coming in from social media.